Archive for Creative Prompts

Weaving a 4 Strand Braid


About a hundred years ago, after much teasing from my two older cousins that I couldn’t make a simple braid, my great aunt Evelyn sat me down on her bed with a bag of shoestring licorice and proceeded to teach me how to make a three strand braid. (Which I got to eat once completed.) 

While I never held much interest in knitting or crocheting, I do enjoy using different weaving techniques like braiding, twining and knotless netting in my mixed media art projects and can never walk past a yarn shop without going in. Yesterday I happened upon the gigantic sale tables of yarn at a local store called Conversational Threads in Emmaus, PA where I bought myself several skeins of pretty colors that I thought I might eventually use when I make dream catchers.

After balling up the yarn this afternoon, I was curious how these three colors might look braided together. I decided that I wanted to do a 4 strand braid but needed a refresher – so I looked to YouTube for assistance and found the following video:

This isn’t the way I remembered making them but I thought I’d give it a try and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

4 strand braid

This was made with a total of 12 strands loosely woven which resulted in the braid being flat and wide. While this was only an experiment, a braid like this could be used as a simple wrapped bracelet, necklace, belt, headband…

For all of the Dad’s out there – you’ll win super mega bonus points with your little girls if you learn to braid their hair like this.

Dialog Writing in Your Memoirs


When I first bought character actor Stephen Tobolowsky’s book “The Dangerous Animals Club” I didn’t initially realize that it was a memoir. (If you don’t know Stephen’s name, you probably know his face because he’s been in over 200 movies – from Mississippi Burning to Memento.) Each chapter is a separate story, (some quite amusing) yet there are larger interconnecting narratives that weave together from the book’s beginning to end. From the very first chapter I instantly recognized Stephen as a gifted storyteller and was more than happy to read about his various experiences -including many from his 30 years in the entertainment industry.

When reading a book such as this, I’m always intrigued by the authors ability to either recall or write detailed dialog. I have a million stories I could write about, but how does one remember exactly what so and so said? If one does not have the memory of an elephant and did not take explicitly detailed notes at the time of the event, does the author simply use artistic license and make things up? I’d be concerned that I’d receive a phone call from Great Aunt Hilde screaming at me something along the lines of, “I never said that you should buy the tuna, It’s always been the cod!”

If you’ve ever penned a short story using actual events from your life, how did you go about writing the character dialog? If not, we can each check out the advice offered at the links below.

Can You Make Up Dialogue In Memoirs Or Nonfiction Books? at Writer’s Relief

Writing a Memoir Like a Novel: Dialogue at This New Mountain


Looking for Calligraphic Inspiration?

Biffybeans Calligraphy Folded Pen

I received an e-mail the other day from Roy M. asking if I knew of any good calligraphy blogs. As I did not, I began to Google around. I found sites which featured eye candy like Gentian Osman’s at Drawing with a Squirrel, Schin Loong’s at Open Ink Stand, and Eliza Holliday’s at  The Letterist.

Molly Suber Thorpe at Plurabelle Calligraphy has written a book entitled Modern Calligraphy and offers physical workshops. Molly Lever at  Art du Jour offers online workshops.

A Place to Flourish offers the anticipations, experiences and reflections of a calligrapher.

But I really seemed to have struck the mother load when I found this post: 40 Fantastic Calligraphy Blogs which has links from calligraphy artists around the world  - many who are are largely influenced by the cultures in which they live and work.

Does anyone else know of any good calligraphy blogs?

The image above is my own. That’s Rouge Hematite in a handmade folded pen.


Are you Familiar with Commonplace Books? Why not start one today!


Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are essentially handwritten scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas, etc.

These commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts, or facts they had learned and each book would be unique to its owners particular interests. They became significant in early modern Europe.

Per Wiki, commonplace books are not diaries nor travelogues, with which they can be contrasted: English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote the 1706 book A New Method of Making a Common Place Book, “in which techniques for entering proverbs, quotations, ideas, speeches were formulated. Locke gave specific advice on how to arrange material by subject and category, using such key topics as love, politics, or religion. Commonplace books, it must be stressed, are not journals, which are chronological and introspective.” – Nicholas A. Basbanes in “Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World”

And in the words of Jonathan Swift: “A common-place book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories;” and whereas, on the other hand, poets being liars by profession, ought to have good memories. To reconcile these, a book of this sort is in the nature of a supplemental memory; or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own by entering them there. For take this for a rule, when an author is in your books, you have the same demand upon him for his wit, as a merchant has for your money, when you are in his.” —from “A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet”

Would you like to read more about commonplace books? Try these links:

How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book” at ThoughtCatalog

Commonplace Books at Harvard University Library

Rhodia Flip Animation Book

Tiny Rhodia and Pencils

Little Rhodia pads are perfect for flip animation, don’t you think? The N° 10 is 2×3″ and  the Nº 11 is 3×4″. The graph ruling helps the artist guide the drawing from one page to the next. 

The first flip book appeared in September, 1868, when it was patented by John Barnes Linnett under the name kineograph (“moving picture”). A flip book is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change. (Per Wiki)

Want to make your own flip book? Instructions can be found on Wired how-to. 

This video above is courtesy of Rob MacKay. Visit Rob’s blog here, or find him on Instagram via roberthfx5000. (If you are unable to see the embedded video, click here to watch it: Flip Animation)


Letters to Friends


When is the last time you put pen to paper and wrote a letter to a friend? No friends to write to? How about a pen pal? Pen pals are people who regularly write to each other, most specifically via postal or “snail” mail.

These sites will help you to find people to write to all from over the world:

Maarten’s Snail Mail Pen Pals Online

Student Letter Exchange

Pen Pals Now

International Pen Friends

Snail Mail Pen Pals for Adults

Pen Pal World

Pen pals directory

Image courtesy of aleks111. on Instagram.


Vision Board Video Follow Up

Stephanie Smith Vision Board

Back in December, I wrote a post about how I’d been interviewed in my art studio by a local television lifestyle program called “Save the Kales!” The segment was about using Vision Boards as a tool to being about a desired situation. Simple to create, the primary component is intention followed by collaging images and words that support your goal.

You can watch the clip on YouTube at this link.  (Filmed in one take, I was a bit nervous.) 


RemRand 006

A Rhodia fan recently in touch mentioned in addition to fountain pens he also uses and collects typewriters.  A kindred spirit!

I love my fountain pens, but I also enjoy seeing and using my six manual typewriters from time to time. I love their fonts.  I love the feeling of hitting a key and constructing a word.

I feel such a connection to my words when I write either by pen or keystroke.  Each letter is so deliberate and can’t be easily erased–so unlike an iPhone text or computer keyboard.  There is a romance to pens and typewriters–we have a relationship with them; they have a personality and help us to express ours as we write with them.

How does writing by a fountain pen or typewriter make you feel vs. a computer keyboard?



A coffee with that pad?


I like to drink coffee when I write. There is something about enjoying good coffee while writing on good paper that satisfies all the senses.

My current favorite is anything from Cafe Grumpy. Close behind is Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, especially Dolok Sanggul from Sumatra. I also enjoy City Blend by Oren’s Daily Roast.

Do you like having coffee when you sketch or write? If so, do you have some good recommendations for us?

My Name is Andrea and I doodle

Andrea is doodling on a large blank Webbie. To follow her 2014 daily doodle project, please go to

Thank you, Andrea!


Writer Inspired New Year’s Resolution


I was at a loss for a New Year’s resolution this year until I read this sentence in Diana Raab’s blog, “Diana’s Notebook” : “I believe when you honor a favorite writer, it is a good idea to read most of their works.”

Inspiration arrived! – my goal for 2014 is to read/reread these books by J.R.R. Tolkien - The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Silmarillon, The Tale of the Children of Hurin; his poem, The Fall of Arthur,and lecture, Beowulf: The Monsters and The Critics.” I share Tolkien’s love and fascination with dragons. And myths.

Diana Raab is a memoirist, poet and writing instructor whose passion is keeping a notebook. One of her books is Writers and Their Notebooks. The fountain pen on the cover immediately caught my eye, but I can’t figure out what it is. Any ideas?

Any New Year’s resolutions to share?

Creating a Manifestation List for 2014


The definition of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”

The definition of manifestation is “an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, esp. a theory or an abstract idea.”

Instead of making resolutions for the new year, I make a manifestation list. I put things on the list that embody not only who I want to be (compassionate, full of energy) but also things what I want to do, like visiting the museums in NYC or taking a personal retreat. The key is to word each item on your list in a way where you are allowing yourself to think and act “as if” the thing you want already exists or has already happened. I like to start the list with something along the lines of “In 2014 I have…” or “In 2014 I…” even “In 2014 I am…”

You want to avoid using word like “want” because according to the law of attraction, (like attracting like) to declare that you “want” something keeps you “wanting” it. If I want to take a retreat in the new year, I might add it to my list as “feel great after a week in upstate New York at the retreat center.” or “attend a relaxing retreat.” Want a new job? Imagine cashing your paycheck with an air of renewed self confidence. Think about what you will pack for your daily lunch. What color sweater you will be wearing on your first day. The more real you can make it in your mind, the more likely it is to happen.

Make sense? Have you ever used creative visualization techniques such as this one?

Objects of Desire


I got a call this week from a well-known men’s fashion magazine. They were looking for particular Rhodia notebooks for photo shoot called “Objects of Desire.” The editor asked for A5 and A6 orange and black Rhodia pads with top spiral and also the “classic.”

The pads will be set on a night table by the bed.  I guess for easy reach when inspiration can’t wait!

If it was up to you, what Rhodia product would you suggest to the editor?



Keeping Track Of…


Rhodia notebooks can be used to keep track of all kinds of things on a regular basis such as:

  • Dreams
  • Food consumed for dietary purposes
  • Mileage
  • Exercise
  • Ideas
  • Wine tastings
  • Genealogy
  • Medical history
  • Learning a new language
  • Recipes
  • Travel/vacation
  • List making

In what other ways do you regularly use a notebook to record important information?

Parnassus Books – Nashville, Tennessee

Ann Patchett of Parnassus Books penned a stirring op-ed in the August 1, 2013 edition of the Wall Street Journal.  Titled “The Antidote to Algorithms: A Real Bookstore,” it chided President Obama for giving a jobs speech at a newly opened Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, but forgetting all the jobs lost as one independent bookstore after another closes.  parnassus books

Of the many good points she made, I like this one the best:  “Authors need a good bookstore: It’s a place to give a reading (Parnassus hosts about 250 author events a year), and a place where customers can browse, picking a book up because of the title or the cover or the staff-recommendation signs that paper the shelves.   Our goal is to promote writers, writing, culture and community, which, I like to think, is aiming a little higher than free two-day shipping.”

I have to admit:  from time to time I shop on Amazon and  I can get books fast, and there is a lot of choice on price.

Most of the time I place an order for a hardcover book with Burton’s Books, a small bookstore in my town of Greenport, NY.  The owner is friendly, the service is great, and just about every time I go in he remembers to tease me about being a NY Jets fan.  He’s a big Giants fan, and a signed helmet from some Super Bowl sets on the shelf next to the waiting book orders.

The banter is also part of the experience of taking home a book.



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